Luk, G. & Pliatsikas, C. (2019): Using Diffusion Tensor Imaging to examine brain structural plasticity and language experience
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Recent advances in neuroimaging methods have led to a renewed interest in the brain correlates of language processing. Most intriguing is how experiences of language use relates to variation in brain structure and how brain structure predicts language acquisition. These two lines of inquiry have important implications on considering language use as an experience-dependent mechanism that induces brain plasticity. This paper focuses on the structural connectivity of the brain, as delivered by white matter, i.e. the collections of the axons of the brain neurons that provide connectivity between brain regions. Tract-Based Spatial Statistics (TBSS), a method commonly used in the field, will be presented in detail. Readers will be introduced to procedures for the extraction of indices of variation in WM structure such as fractional anisotropy. Furthermore, the role of individual differences in WM and changes in WM pertaining to bilingual experience and language processing will be used as examples to illustrate the applicability of this method.